MADRID, April 2 (Reuters) - The Spanish doctor on trial for allegedly running a doping ring in cycling made his final defence on Tuesday before the judge retired to consider her verdict which is due in around six weeks.
Eufemiano Fuentes and four other defendants, including his sister Yolanda, have been appearing in a Madrid court since late January, nearly seven years after anabolic steroids, transfusion equipment and blood bags were seized as part of an investigation code-named “Operation Puerto”.
The proceedings have attracted international attention because some of Fuentes’s clients were successful professional riders, including American Tyler Hamilton who gave evidence in February.
Anti-doping authorities, who are represented in court, hope the trial will lead to evidence of wrongdoing by athletes in sports other than cycling being made available.
Fuentes, who denies doping, said in his opening testimony he also had clients in sports including soccer, tennis, athletics and boxing. He told reporters last month he might be willing to name the clients whose blood was found in the seized bags.
As Spain’s current anti-doping legislation was not in force in 2006 when the police raids took place, the five are being tried for violating public health regulations.
“I don’t understand law and I am not a lawyer but during my 35-year professional career I have never harmed a patient’s health,” Fuentes told the court on Tuesday.
“The goal I pursue as a medical doctor is to protect health, not to damage it,” he added.
A court official said the judge would publish her verdict in around six weeks. She will also announce whether she will grant a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) request for access to the blood bags.
Spain is hopeful the trial will help to dispel the impression that the nation is soft on doping and boost Madrid’s bid to win the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
The country is pushing through parliament anti-doping legislation which the government says will bring Spain into line with international norms. (Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Clare Fallon)